Western Conference leaders Real Monarchs SLC will play the second match of their Texas road trip on Wednesday against Rio Grande Valley Toros FC in Edinburg, Texas. At a little over 1500 miles the H-E-B Park is the farthest Western Conference opponent for the Monarchs.
An affiliate of the Houston Dynamo, Rio Grande Valley finished 2nd in the USL Western Conference for the 2016 season. However, during their second season in 2017 the squad has struggled after losing Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera and several star players to Houston. Currently only two points out of a playoff spot, but sitting at number 12 in the 15 team Western Conference, the Toros have lost three of their last five matches by a margin of four goals and seen their goal differential go into the negative.
Wednesday’s match will be Rio Grande Valley’s third match in 7 days following an 11 day break earlier in July. While the Monarchs were tying San Antonio up the road the Toros on Saturday the Toros were losing 4-0 to Orange County SC in Irvine, California. It It is very fair to expect that several players may be rested on both sides.
The Toros have a total of 18 goals so far in the 2017 season which puts them above only Portland Timbers 2 in the Western Conference. Eric Bird, Memo Rodriguez and Ruben Luna each have three goals to lead the Toros. At home in H-E-B field they have managed to score 3 goals in victories over the Seattle Sounders 2, OKC Energy, and Colorado Spring Switchbacks for half their total goals. Conversely, they have been held scoreless in seven matches although only 3 were at home in H-E-B Park. The Toros shot conversion rate is only 13% which is a full 10 percentage below the Monarchs.
The Rio Grande Valley defense, however, is quite comparable to the Monarchs. Both teams have five clean sheets. And while the Totos have allowed 25 goals which is 6 more than the Monarchs, they have better clearance and tackle success rates than the Monarchs. Brazilian center back, Ivan Magalhaes, is the only player to appear in all 17 of the Toros matches and and along with Kevin Greene anchors the defensive line
The Monarchs continue to score goals and are tied with Reno 1868 FC for the USL lead with 42. Chandler Hoffman is up to 12 goals which is one behind Dane Kelly of Reno 1868 FC and two behind Romario Williams who has recently been in great form for Jamaica in the Gold Cup.
RSL continues to not have a player with more than 3 yellow cards and is in relatively good health with Sebastian Velasquez, Charlie Adams, Riggs Lennon, and Emilio Orozco returning to full participation in practice. Seba especially has been missed for his goal scoring potential and as a spark plug in the center of the offense.
The Monarchs and Toros played two matches in 2016 with the Toros coming away 1-0 victors at Rio Tinto and the squads playing to a 1-1 draw at the Toros’ old field on the campus of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. This will be the first meeting at the new H-E-B Field and another chance for the Monarchs to get their first ever victory in Texas after a loss to Austin Aztex and draws with San Antonio FC and the Toros.
What to watch for
Edinburg will be a step up in humidity from San Antonio, but slightly cooler as well. At kick off the temperature is expected to be 94 degrees, but the 42% humidity will make the effective temperature of 102 degrees. The humidity will rise through the game keeping the effective temperature well within the upper 90s.
Once again it will be up to the Monarchs to push hard and consistently in the match despite being on the road. The Rio Grande Valley defense is good, but the team as a whole has shown a tendency to give up if placed in an early hole. Look for the Monarchs to try for an early lead and press play high in an attempt to put this match away early and preserve legs for next Monday.
Real Monarchs: (4-2-3-1) Sparrow; Curinga, Moberg, Gallagher, Lachowecki; Besler, Adams; Minter, Velasquez, Haber; Hoffman
San Antonio FC: (4-2-3-1): Carducci; Greene, Sagel, Magalhaes, Hunter; Bird, Garza; Murphy, Lucatero, Casner; Ramos Pungo
When: Wednesday, July 26, 6:00 pm MDT
Where: H-E-B Park — Edinburg, TX
Weather: 91 degrees, Sunny
Broadcast: ESPN3, Watch ESPN (USL Game of the Week)